Imagine this: after weeks and weeks of house hunting, you finally find the “one,” your dream home. You make and offer and it’s miraculously accepted. Congrats, you’re finally able to call yourself a homeowner! Well, almost. Unless you’re able to pay for your home in cash (can you adopt me?), you’ll have to take out a mortgage. If you’ve never applied for a mortgage before, you’re probably wondering how the process works (unfortunately, they don’t touch this stuff in school).
Let’s look at the four main factors lenders look at to qualify you for a mortgage and why.
1. Your Income
A mortgage is a lot of dough, even for banks. Lenders won’t just approve anyone for a mortgage. The banks are looking for someone earning a steady paycheque over at least the last couple years (someone who’s a salaried employee). If you’re a self-employed or contract employee, you’ll have a lot tougher of a time qualifying for a mortgage. (Although a talented mortgage broker can help you find a lender well suited to you.) The reason for this is simple. The banks only want to lend to someone who will be able to afford to consistently pay their mortgage.
However, there are things you can do to help qualify for a bigger mortgage if you’re buying in a pricey real estate market like Toronto or Vancouver. By earning more income, you can qualify for a bigger mortgage and afford a more expensive home (all things considered equal).
If you aren’t able to qualify for the mortgage you were hoping, you might want to consider applying for a mortgage with a partner. It doesn’t have to be your romantic partner, it could be a brother, sister, aunt or uncle. If you have two incomes when applying for a mortgage, it will be a lot easier to get it approved to buy your dream home.
2. Your Down Payment
Similar to your income, the larger your down payment, the easier it will be to qualify for a mortgage. Ideally, we could all afford to make a 20 percent down payment, but that’s just not realistic, especially in cities like Toronto. Even putting 10 percent down can be challenging in pricey markets. Your down payment matters to lenders because they want to know that you have skin in the game.
If you’re unable to save up 20 percent towards your down payment, aim for a minimum of 10 percent. Besides, if you’re buying a home for under $1 million, you’ll be required to put at least 10 percent down on your portion of the sales price between $500,000 and $999,999. By putting more than 5 percent down, your mortgage will be smaller, helping you save on mortgage interest over the life of your mortgage.
But coming up with a larger down payment is easier said than done. How can you do this? By boosting your income or cutting back on expenses. To earn extra income, you could start your own business in your spare time. For example, if you’re skilled at photography, you could become a wedding photographer. Ways to save on expenses include carpooling and taking public transit more often and brown-bagging your lunch. If you could save yourself $50 a month extra, that’s more money you could put towards your down payment.